From Addressing Barriers to Learning,
Vol. 2 (1), Winter 1997

Center News

Recently we received the following from Joel Dansky:

I just finished visiting your web site. It was helpful to me in looking for resources. I expect that I will request some of your information packets by mail. I am a clinical social worker & supervisor at a school based health clinic in Holyoke, Mass. We have medical and mental health services available at two middle schools and one high school and mental health services available at another middle school and at an alternative program for students who have had major behavioral problems. I have mostly worked in the middle schools. When we started the middle school project six years ago, under the auspices of the local community mental health center which employs us, we struggled for referrals and to establish ourselves within the school community. Now the counseling side of the program is overwhelmed with referrals coming from school staff, from parents, and from some community agencies. We are also burdened by the paperwork involved in third party billing for our services. At this point we are looking to redesign the program to account for these factors and to avoid drowning. Until now, although we have operated inside the school and have worked closely with school staff, we have not been "integrated" in any systematic way to the system. Our CMHC sponsorship and not being school employees has, till now, helped establish us as somewhat independent of the school and in some ways more trustworthy to students and to parents. We get no financial support from the school system. Managed care is, as I am sure you know, ever more difficult to square with the exigencies of school based counseling. However, we are now feeling like we need to initiate discussions with the schools to reformulate the ways we can be more effective. I would be very interested in corresponding with others who are struggling with these issues. I can be reached via e-mail: or by mail Joel Dansky, Teen Clinic, Peck Middle School, 1916 Northampton St. Holyoke Mass. 01040.

We hope that many of you will take time to respond to Joel. What follows is our response:

Joel: As you know, the matters you raise are being experienced across the country -- not only by those working in school-based/linked health centers, but by the many professionals schools employ to address psychosocial and mental health concerns Here's how our Center and others may be of assistance.

1) Improving Access to Resources

We are using our Clearinghouse as a context for organizing information on policy, system development, programs, and specific problems relevant to the topic of mental health in schools. To facilitate access, we are developing special resources and packaging them (e.g.,Introductory Packets, Resource Aid Packets, Technical Aid Packets, Guidebooks, Continuing Education Units). A list of these resources is available on request. We also list them on our website and highlight them in this quarterly newsletter (see p. 12) and in our monthly electronic news (called ENEWS).

2) Clarifying New Frameworks for Practice

As you indicate and as is stressed in the lead article to our current newsletter and in our 1996 policy report, the field must begin to pursue new approaches. The concerns you raise require weaving a clinic's focus on health into a school/community wide comprehensive, integrated approach for addressing barriers to learning (which includes enhancing healthy development).

3) Developing Support Networks and Clarifying Policy Needs

Our summer conferences bring together key leaders to encourage enhancement and development of local support infrastructures and to stimulate efforts to enhance current policy and practice. This summer we hope to bring together federal and state leaders to look at existing policy through the lens of how schools/ communities address barriers to learning. We think this will help further clarify to the need for major policy rethinking at all levels.

4) Providing Other Training & Technical Assistance

Ask and we will discuss ways to help. As a major technical assistance tool, we continue to recruit professionals in all parts of the country who are willing to share their expertise without fees. This growing cadre provides you access to a large network of colleagues who you can contact about the types of concerns you raise. In addition, you can ask for assistance from our Center staff by contacting us (see the box below). If we can't be of direct assistance, we will help you connect with someone who can.

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